We like our prepositions. To be in, to be under, to be inside. We wrap layers around ourselves, cocoon and swaddle. It comes, we reason, from how we are made, in wombs, that are sacs, that are containers. Full is almost always better than empty. Echoes make us shiver. We fence our gardens, build walls around what we love, box keepsakes, frame memories, muffle our desires. We live under lock and key like specimens in an old drawer telling ourselves we’re safe as houses.
History, myth in particular, has been unkind about opening boxes. Ask Pandora. Or the little boy who wrote ‘Beetle’ very blackly on the lid.
But our ancestors passed their lives unlidded. No coffins but pyres. Ashes to the clouds. Wanderers. Worshippers of running rivers and sacred oaks, they gazed up at their gods through boughs to the contours of clouds with their oil-paint lilacs and oranges.
They knew to let go, to move on, the nomadic principle that we eschew in favour of hoarding and clinging on, forgetting that nothing, except God, lasts forever. The beech leaves know it. The spring bulbs and prevailing east wind. The nails that hold the slates of Princes’ Street chapel feel it most keenly since they are two centuries old and finally losing their grip, flaking softly into the beams that hold them, like a hand clasp between old friends slowly loosening.
Tilt your ear to the wind and listen. It says that the house of God needs no roof at all. Let the nails fall.